The First Vice Presidential Debate: A Recap 

Better Behavior from the VP’s

Nicholas Scola, Staff Writer

The first and only Vice Presidential Debate kicked-off on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. The debate was held at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah and ran for roughly ninety minutes during which both Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris displayed their positions on some key issues facing America during this election cycle.

Covid 19 Record/Recovery Effort 

The first topic discussed was the Covid-19 pandemic. Democratic candidate Kamala Harris brought up the Trump administration’s ineptitude during the pandemic specifically citing the 210,000 Americans who have lost their lives due to the pandemic, the increase in cases in 39 US. states over the course of the past few weeks, and the mass economic strife caused as a result of the pandemic with one in five businesses closing down and 30 million left unemployed. She furthered her claims by offering a message as to how the Biden administration will handle the pandemic differently as she mentioned an increase in contact tracing and a cut in vaccination cost for Americans. Vice President Pence addressed the pandemic by touting the Trump administration’s record on Covid-19. He stated that President Trump acted decisively by banning travel to China on January 28 and outlined the Trump administration’s accomplishments throughout the pandemic, including the production of 115 million tests, a record number of personal protective equipment and ventilators, and the creation of “Operation Warp Speed” to produce millions of vaccination doses. He additionally mentioned that top doctors such as Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx praised the Trump-Covid plan, and that the death toll due to the coronavirus would have been much worse without the President’s actions.   VP Pence mentioned the Obama-Biden administration’s failed record on Swine Flu which saw the infection of 60 million Americans in a year-long period. 

The Economy

Regarding the economy, both Vice President Pence and Senator Harris had differing views on their plans for recovery. Senator Harris attacked the Trump tax plan highlighting that his tax cuts only benefit the wealthiest of Americans. She added that Trump has created a two trillion dollar deficit in the economy. Senator Harris subsequently mentioned the Biden plan to alleviate the economic stress caused by coronavirus which includes an investment in renewable energy and education, a cut of $10,000 in student debt loans, and an increase in taxes for those who make over $400,000 a year from 37% to 39% including a raise in the capital gains tax by 20%. Similarly, Vice President Pence ridiculed the economy under the Obama-Biden administration saying that they oversaw the slowest economic recovery in American history. Pence also touched on the Trump Tax Cuts under which the average American family of four saved $2,000. He also illustrated that America is on the road to recovery with 11.6 million jobs being added. He ended this segment by segueing into Joe Biden’s support for the Green New Deal, and how it would destroy American jobs. 

The Environment 

With mass destruction as a result of unprecedented environmental disasters, the environment was a key issue brought up by moderator Susan Page. Vice President Pence opened this segment by acknowledging climate change and describing the Trump Pence administration’s efforts to curb it. He contended that under the Trump administration, America’s air, land, and water is among the cleanest in the world and reaffirmed his support for the Outdoors Act. Moreover, Pence denounced the Paris Climate Accord and stated that the USA has reduced its carbon emissions following withdrawal from the deal. He concluded his argument by evidencing that natural disasters, such as the California wildfires and record hurricanes around the Gulf Coast, are a result of mismanagement by federal governments or have no scientific correlation with climate change [specifically, he mentioned that the National Oceanic Center wrote that we have not experienced worse hurricanes in 2020, than those of the past century]. Kamala Harris’s position on climate change was forthright in her support of the Green New Deal. Senator Harris spoke to the job possibilities that could be created as a result of the deal including the addition of 7 million jobs. Furthermore, she argued that Joe Biden believes in science while the Trump administration has consistently neglected or denied it. Ultimately, she vehemently condemned Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and endorsed a resubmission to the environmental deal.  

The Supreme Court 

With the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court looming, the Supreme Court, and more specifically, the process by which justices are chosen, has come under scrutiny. Both Vice Presidential candidates had adamant convictions pertaining to this topic. Sen. Harris commenced her views on this issue by voicing what Americans stand to lose as a result of Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. This included an end to legal abortion and the Affordable Care Act. In addition, she mentioned that the American people should decide which political party appoints the next Supreme Court justice, citing Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 decision to do so. Conversely, Mr. Pence argued that it is the president’s right to appoint a new justice. Pence affirmed his pro-life position but mentioned that he should not assume nor influence the views of potential justice Amy Coney Barrett. The Vice President ended his segment by asking Senator Harris whether or not she would pack the courts if elected, to which Ms. Harris failed to provide an answer.

Overall, the debate culminated in a civil fashion with ewer interruptions and personal vendettas made by and against the respective candidates. Many believe the effect of this debate on swing voters was minimal, at best, but a strong performance by both campaigns has left anticipation for the second presidential debate next week.